An increasing number of large employers are reporting a need for mental health services among their workforce, while cancer remains the top driver of health care costs.
Those were among the findings of Business Group on Health’s 2024 Large Employer Health Care Strategy Survey, which was announced this week.
More than 7 in 10 large employers surveyed (77%) reported an increase in mental health needs among their workers, a jump from the 44% who saw an increase in employee mental health concerns in 2022.
As employers see a greater need for mental health services among their workers, more employers report their health and well-being strategy is an integral part of their workforce strategy. About two-thirds of employers surveyed said health and well-being is an integral part of their workforce strategy as opposed to 42% who said the same in 2021.
“This is a culmination of many factors that have been building for a number of years,” said Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of Business Group on Health. “Certainly, COVID-19 and the employer focus post-pandemic have not dissipated. For many reasons, employers will stay focused on investing in the health and well-being of their workforce. Among the reasons for this are employee retention and wanting to have the healthiest workforce possible.”
Employers are most concerned about employee burnout, access to mental health services and quality of mental health care, the survey showed.
Nearly all (94%) of employers surveyed said they plan to increase access to online mental health resources in 2024. About two-thirds (63%) said they will work with their health plan and other vendors to expand mental health networks.
In addition to increased mental health issues, 30% of employers reported their workers are seeing more challenges in accessing health care because of a shortage of health professionals and 28% said they are seeing an increased in medical services used because of worsening employee health from obesity and other conditions.
Looking ahead to the future, 41% of employers said they anticipate more chronic condition management needs among their workforce and more late-stage cancers among their employees because of delayed screenings.
Employers are addressing health equity issues among their employees, the survey found.
79% are working with their employee resource groups to promote benefits and well-being initiatives to targeted groups.
46% of employers surveyed have expanded their provider network to include more diverse health care and mental health professionals.
The vast majority of employers are implementing programs or strategies to address specific inequities affecting employees.
88% said they want to improve affordability in their health and well-being programs.
86% said they will implement a strategy to support employees with a disability or who are neurodiverse.
85% plan to adopt a strategy to support LGBTQ+ employees’ health and well-being.
81% want to advance health equity within women’s and reproductive health.
For the second consecutive year, cancer is the leading condition that drives employers’ health care costs, followed by musculoskeletal conditions, the survey showed. When asked their top three conditions driving health care costs,
86% of employers said cancer is the condition driving costs.
74% of employers reported musculoskeletal conditions in the top 3.
30% of employers cited cardiovascular conditions. This was a drop from 43% in 2021.
27% of employers cited diabetes, a drop from 43% in 2021.
Employers report spending more money on pharmacy costs for their workers. Sixty percent of employers said they are “very concerned” about pharmacy cost trends.
When asked to report their top health care initiatives for 2024, 36% of employers said they want to expand access to mental health services, while 35% plan to implement more virtual health opportunities and 22% plan a more focused strategy on high-cost claims.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents’ association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at Susan.Rupe@innfeedback.com. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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